There are two established ways of recounting the emergence of the modern Gulf oil monarchies. The social scientific explanation describes anonymous structural forces, the “resource curse” of the “rentier state,” and how these have shaped politics and markets with their inexorable logic. The other narrative, of the popular history variety, offers romantic, personalized accounts of desert shaykhs, their whims, and the sudden riches of their families (complemented, in some less benevolent accounts, by tales of monumental corruption).
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